Before it was used as an airbase in World War II, Hornchurch aerodrome was first used during World War I. Originally called Suttons Farm, it was the ninth aerodrome that was located around the perimeter of London. The location was so important that it was the base for the No. 39 Home Defence Unit and plans were made to accommodate several squadrons. Suttons Farms saw its share of activity throughout World War I yet when the war was over in 1919, the Air Ministry decided they no longer needed to use the area and restored the farm to original condition. In 1922 the Royal Air Force wanted to increase its force and Sutton’s Farm was an ideal location. A task force went back to the old airfield and it was found to be in a usable condition. The owner of the farm refused to turn over his land once again to the Air Ministry yet in 1926 they eventually acquired enough land to build an aerodrome after considerable negotiations.
The new aerodrome was officially opened on April 1, 1928 and the name changed in January, 1929 to Hornchurch. Several squadrons occupied the aerodrome between its opening and the outbreak ofWorld War II, including the 111 and 65 Squadrons. In August 1939 all the buildings were ordered to be camouflaged and manned 24 hours a day as a war with Germany was approaching. These were the first stages of Hornchurch being a front line station during the Battle. Even though eight squadrons used Hornchurch in early 1940, none of them stayed permanently. Despite that, Hornchurch was gaining a reputation, with 128 victories by June and several distinguished guests visiting.
Before the Battle of Britain, Hornchurch was a high ranking Sector Station. The aerodrome was attacked twenty times during the Battle of Britain. The worst attack was on August 31 with two attacks in one day; one in the morning and one near 5:30 p.m. Although the damage was widespread, it was not severe and only one person died during the attacks. Eventually, things became too dangerous at Hornchurch and the main Operations Room was moved to Lambourne Hall, Romford on October 15, 1940. By June 1944, Hornchurch had lost its identity as a fighter station and became a transit station for British and American personnel to the battle fronts in France.
RAF Hornchurch was home to the Hornchurch Sector Operations Room and Staff, and the following Squadrons during the Battle:
• No 65 Squadron from 5 June 1940
• No 74 Squadron from 25 June 1940
• No 54 Squadron from 24 July 1940
• No 41 Squadron from 26 July 1940
• No 54 Squadron from 8 August 1940
• No 266 Squadron from 14 August 1940
• No 600 Squadron from 22 August 1940
• No 264 Squadron from 22 August 1940
• No 603 Squadron from 27 August 1940
• No 41 Squadron from 3 September 1940